Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Doggem by John F Leonard
My Review: 4.5 stars out of 5 for
The Velveteen Rabbit meets Rosemary’s Baby.
John F. Leonard’s little story of Doggem is a sweet tale of a little boy, a favorite toy, murder, horror, and (possibly) the end of the world. Narrated by the toy dog Doggem—whose job is to go home with the five-year-olds in Mrs. Snady’s class and inspire them to practice their fledgling writing skills by writing up Doggem’s diary—we soon realize that the recently sentient toy is an unreliable narrator at best. His vocabulary and observations are far removed from those of his tiny guardians’ abilities, while he himself freely admits to ‘many failings’:
I’m already digressing. I fear that will be one of my many failings. Acquiring a voice when muteness was your original condition tends to engender a certain garrulous quality.
If I have any complaint about the story, it’s just that it too short. The genre demands a slow buildup, and I think the questions raised by the unreliable little narrator would have been even more devastating with a little more description behind them. With such a short story, descriptions of people and settings are necessarily pared back to the minimum needed, but are nevertheless razor sharp. Describing George’s mother, for example, Doggem observes, “There was a certain sharpness to Cath Gould’s features that meant her face eluded true beauty. As if God had taken his eye off the ball at the last minute and allowed something snappish to creep into the mix. She was a strikingly attractive woman nonetheless, never more so than when she was charming her way through a difficult subject.”Despite our immediate suspicions, Doggem’s observations and comments convey an intelligence that is both clueless and timelessly jaded. We start to get small hints that George is such an unusual child that he was actually the source of Doggem’s change from toy to sentient being. “Some strange and unknowable energy smeared across the universes and settled behind my glassy eyes.” But almost immediately we realize that something else is going on as the still innocent toy and child overhear troubling adult comments.
Or as the little family, Doggem in tow, heads for a reluctant and ominous visit to his grandmother, we hear about menace in the surrounding woods. “How heavy the branches sat against the sun. As if they were tears in the fabric of reality rather than vibrant, growing things.”
But as the story swiftly develops into malice, evil, and death, we realize how unreliable Doggem’s observations really are. Is he reporting what actually happened? Is George a strange child or the pivotal result of untold years of plotting with evil? Is Doggem, who owes his awareness and “real” self to George, also part of that growing evil? Or even, is the entire tale something made up by the retired schoolteacher recording the events?
I have my theories, but you’ll have to read this elegantly simple and elaborately confusing little jewel of a cozy horror tale and decide for yourself.
All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy.
They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school.
All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family.
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary.
Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket.
He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence.
Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night.
Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.
DOGGEM is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you.
Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them.
They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings.
Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children.
Ancient evil and everyday greed.
Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
The Dead Boxes?
Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category.
They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art …a child’s plaything.
Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique.
You could very easily have one and not know it.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You might think you do, but you really don’t.
A Short Story.
From the Dead Boxes Archive.
AmazonUK | AmazonUS